KZG just may be the BEST OEM that you have never heard of. Actually, one could argue that they rival Titleist, Taylor Made, Mizuno and Ping. KZG is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) you say?
Absolutely, and their Gemini drivers just may be the best big stick you can buy. Bar none. Their forged irons are top notch as well. Personally, I have never driven the ball better before putting my KZG Gemini driver into play. The extremely high quality of their offerings and the lack of print media visibility via an adverstising campaign was perplexing to me. KZG follows a different marketing strategy and it just may be quite intelligent on their part. I interviewed KZG’s President, Jennifer King, and she offered some valuable insight into this niche market top notch, OEM golf company. Read on for the interview…
I know about the Orlimar fairway woods and their early success. Was this the beginning of KZG?
Not really. We started way back in 1994. We had this phenomenal technology which was ceramicized zirconium…we used it as a face insert in the club heads…I must tell you, the COR must have been .980…the energy off the
face was so great. But the cost was equally great…our cost per iron head was $44….so, it was not that commercially feasible. Tom Crow, then President of COBRA, absolutely loved it … as did many of the other OEMs, but it was just too costly.
We then started doing other technologies which we did sell to other OEMs. We then came across the brazing technique which was the basis of our KZG Maraging Power Drivers, Fairway Woods and Irons. It was pretty phenomenal. We tried to sell it to other OEMS and they loved it also. We finally convinced Orlimar to give it a try…in fact, we paid for the testing at Gene Parente’s testing facility…they were blown away, and the rest is history. We ended up selling to Orlimar 1.75 million clubs in 1998 and 1999! We also owned 1/3 of Orlimar Japan.
How did you (Jennifer King) get involved with a golf company? I would guess that you are an avid golfer, right?
I started KZG with my husband in 1994. Shaggy dog story…my cousin told me about this great club. 6 months later he shows up at my law office still raving about the club. We hit it and were amazed…I flew to Taiwan to meet the inventor and bought some clubs and tried to sell them, but alas, as set forth above, limited success due to the cost. No, I am not an avid golfer; in fact I am not very good at all. My dad, my husband and my daughter are all avid golfers. I am an entrepreneur and deal maker. I have been instrumental in starting many companies as I was a lawyer for 22 years…including Guess? Jeans. My role is to put all the pieces together…like a movie producer…who hires the actors, the director, gets the script, etc. And that is what I do here. I find the technologies, I hire the best experts in the field, and I even do a lot of the designing believe it or not. I think it helps when someone is thinking "out of the box".
If so, what happened to Orlimar? How/when did KZG golf come about?
Sadly Orlimar failed. Not surprisingly though. The three running Orlimar really wanted to do a stock play and were less interested in operating a real golf company. We were offered $5/share in July 1998, but they turned it down; $7/share in September 1998 and they turned that down too. It was on over load, but he problem was that started not honoring their rebate program. Then they lowered the price in Dec. 1998 for the holidays; I remember having a huge argument with them that they would never get the price back up again; they ignored me. In 1999 they dropped the price 5 times…all to boost sales for a "pump and dump" stock play. Well, if you recall, they went public…Adams came out at $16 and within hours was down to $4/share. Orlimar tried to go out, but they could never get the price they wanted after that.Wall Street finally realized that the golf
business is small potatoes. They never had any more offers and could not get it sold.
In 2000 they sold it to Howard Lester (owner of Williams Sonoma) I think he and his friends bought it for very little…they got control of the company I believe for less than $1/share (Howard invested $10 million and his friends
invested $13 million). They moved the company down to San Diego and got real smart. They stopped buying from me. They started putting out their own product which did not catch the fancy of the public and they died a slow death.
Around 2002 the entire company was sold for less that $0.25 a share to Knight Golf…which has historically sold boxed clubs…very low price point. And it too died a slow death. 3 years ago Golf Digest gave them their "Hot List" endorsement and it totally flopped. Its now just dead.
As stated in #1, KZG started in 1994. KZG changed its focus and devoted 100% of its efforts to Custom Fit and Custom Built clubs in 1998….it has grown steadily over the years.
4. What is your business strategy to combat that you are not considered an OEM club by the uninformed masses? What I mean is, the small group of hard core golfers not only know their own personal equipment, but they are really knowledgeable about equipment that they choose not to use. I believe that this small core group of golfers knows KZG’s quality. I am speaking of the middle group, those that play often and might be looking to buy a good set of clubs, ala PING, Titleist, Taylor Made, etc….
We are pretty realistic here. We will never be a Nike, Callaway or TaylorMade…never. We don’t advertise. I doubt we ever will. Think about it, all the big boys are spending $100 million plus a year on media and the tour, given there are at least 10 of them, that means over $1 billion a year. Even if I had $1 million to spend, no one would see it.
(Now I understand why spending a ton of cash on advertising is not really a smart business strategy for KZG.)
We have set out to produce products that are demonstrably better and they definitely are. We have also chosen to work only with true Professional Fitters because when our product is fitted properly, it simply cannot be beat. Our advertising is the old fashioned way…happy golfers telling their friends.
We are definitely an "OEM" – Original Equipment Manufacturer. We use the top designers in the industry and work with the same manufacturing plants that the big boys use in China. The big boys cannot afford to use our
manufacturers in Japan…
Sadly I watch as the major brands are saying that they are custom fitting, when in fact they are really offering optional shafts and guessing at what might be right for a player. IPAC (international Professional Association of Clubfitters) has formed to try to educate the public on where to go for a real fitting, see www.ipacgolf.com.
Slowly we are growing and gaining ground with the middle handicappers and even the high handicappers. When we started out, we only made equipment for the low handicappers, but if you check out our website, you can see that we offer clubs for every conceivable skill level as well as budget.
And of course, we are hoping that writers like you will educate the public about KZG and about proper fitting.
I have realized how getting PROPERLY fitted for a driver can really help one’s game. Since getting fitted for my Gemini driver, I am driving the ball better than at anytime in the last 15 years!
I like the fact that KZG golf clubs are only offered through qualified clubfitters and not in the big box stores. However, I am perplexed by the lack of national advertising. Does KZG not want to be the next Mizuno, etc..and is KZG OK being just a high quality "niche" golf company?
Again, we just don’t have a $10-$100 million dollar advertising budget. For now, we have to stick with editors and writers like yourself and the great publicity we get from our loyal KZG golfers…and they really are loyal and supportive. We would love to be next to Mizuno and we are…in those facilities that have a real Professional Fitter on staff.
Do you have any restrictions on what your KZG clubfitters/sellers can sell in the same store? For example, can they sell all the bogus, low quality "knock offs" as well?
We are very particular about our Dealers. We try not to sell to anyone that sells clones or knock-offs…or low quality "home shop" components. Most all of our Dealers take pride in their professionalism and would not tarnish their reputation with stolen designs and brands and junk.
Do you think that having KZG clubs being sold alongside knock offs hurts your reputation? (I know it’s no different at Golf Galaxy, they sell the average Maltby stuff as well as the top of the line OEM products. All that stuff is fine for the guy who plays not all so often, or hits that stuff well and actually likes it).
In my opinion, knock offs are stolen designs, stolen brands, stolen ideas. I abhor knock-offs and we try to steer clear of anyone that sells them.
Do you feel that "KZG" is a brand name in the golf world as a whole? I know when I worked at the range one summer for one of my asst. pro buddies a few years ago I would watch all the high school golfers hitting their
drivers. I would hand them my Gemini, ask them NOT to look at the sole and have them hit it. I would say that most of these kids hit my club farther and more accurately than any of their OEM products. However, I never saw any of them rushing out to buy a KZG.
I know, its amazing. We have people in front of a launch monitor who can actually see that they are getting a tighter dispersion and greater distance, and still feel more comfortable with the well-advertised brand name. But most of our Dealers do get the respect of their customers and usually sell them KZG.
Why not attack the amateur/junior/NCAA golf market instead of the professional tours and such? Maybe a program where college and high school golf coaches can make player purchases cheaper through KZG.
We are on every tour, in every category of equipment, save putters. Phil Mickelson played my blades for 9 months (without pay of course…cute story, he paid full retail and tipped the fitter $200), Nick Price plays our ZO clubs; Padraig Harrington played our RBT Driver; the list goes on and on…Michelle Wie plays our stuff, the #1 girl in Australia plays our stuff, everyone who is anyone has played our equipment. But let’s face it, when Nike comes along and offers you millions, you would be crazy not to take it. So no, I don’t chase the tours, they chase us and when they hit it big, we wish them well as they get the big endorsement.
I don’t think it would be fair to compare (I am not speaking about quality here, YOU GUYS ARE UP TO SNUFF on that!) KZG to Ping, Callaway, Titleist or Taylor Made, as they pump out huge numbers of stuff. I know that Mizuno does not spend as much (or pay as many) paying top pros to play their stuff as these other big companies do. Have you ever thought of paying annyone to play KZG? Would it be worth the advertising if you paid say one Nationwide Tour Pro or one LPGA/PGA Tour Pro? Obviously you have completed a cost analysis to see if it is worth the hassles associated with it. Have any pros independently approached KZG and said that they wanted to play your driver and/or irons (obviously not for free)? If so, you don’t have to say any names just whether or not it has occurred. (That would be a great validation of your products)?
Trust me, I have thought about this over and over. In fact, I even discussed this very issue this morning as one of the shaft reps on Tour wants to use our heads on all of his shafts for testing…which is great. But would I pay someone…very doubtful. You either need a very top name (which is millions) or you need a whole bunch of smaller guys (which also adds up when you consider they are paying these guys $3,500 per week just to hit a particular driver off the first tee). How much would it be worth if #285 on the Nationwide Tour was playing KZG? Who is it by the way? See, it just doesn’t add up. And then say that #285 actually won a major tournament….it still would cost you $250,000 to advertise that fact!
I get frustrated, as I am sure KZG does as well, when many of the major golf magazines ignore KZG products in all of their tests (I think the Gemini driver finally made the Golf Digest hot list last year, I think). Is this because KZG does not purchase advertising from them? (I know it was like that in the bicycle racing world where I used to write). These equipment tests are so biased and I really don’t let them make up my mind about golf equipment.
You are right. We don’t advertise and they don’t write about us. Its simple, but it is practical. Always follow the money. The reason that Golf Digest gave us the Hot List Award for the Gemini (1 1/2 years after it was launched) was because they were at a party of mine during the PGA Show, and I basically told them that everyone was laughing at them and cancelling their subscriptions for having given the Hot List award to the new Orlimar from Knight Golf…it really was a joke. I think the next season that is why they gave us the honor and named the Gemini as the best driver.
I would put a KZG Gemini up against ANY driver on the market, it is too bad the major golf publications are so biased towards the giant companies with the mass-marketing dollars. Until you see ALL the players, it will never be a true test.
Why not a small ad promoting the Golf Test USA test showing how the Gemini beat all of the "other guys"? Surely this would be cost effective in the long run.
We will be doing that, but we have been so busy, we put that on the back burner…but we will do something with that.
Where are the KZG Driver heads and irons made? China and or Japan? In the same factories as the OEM manufacturer’s stuff?
China makes virtually every club head in the world. Japan makes very few forgings…ours, and the tour versions of some of the major OEMs, and Miura…not even Mizuno can afford 100% Japanese made.
Do all KZG products have a "lifetime" warranty?
No. We have a 2 year written warranty. But frankly we do usually give a lifetime warranty. There was a recent incident however that makes that difficult, as there were counterfeit ones out there, which I took in even though they were not mine…and that proved disastrous.
Does KZG test any of their own products in house? If so, have you tested your competitor’s equipment as well? If so, what did you discover?
We do informal tests of our products against other products using our launch monitors here. We also hire Golf Laboratories owned by Gene Parente…he is an independent testing facility. We found that our product is the best…and the 2nd best is Titleist.
In what areas of the country or world are KZG products "most popular"?
There are sections where are products are actively marketed by our Dealers. We are very popular in Northern California, New Jersey, Virginia, some portions of Texas. We are huge in Europe.
If you are seeking some new golf clubs, you really should locate your local KZG dealer and see what they have to offer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You just may skip the Mizunos the next time around. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Cincinnati’s BEST clubfitter and local KZG dealer, Kirby Bolen…
THANK YOU Jennifer for taking time out of your very busy schedule to answer my questions for the many members of golfwrx.com, the internet’s BEST golf forum!
For more information on KZG products please visit www.kzgolf.com